I recently saw someone talking about how one of “NaNoWriMo’s Prizes” was a “free publishing contract”. I wanted to start by saying there aren’t really “prizes” for winning NaNoWriMo. There are offers made by NaNo’s sponsors, but they aren’t what one would traditionally call prizes. NaNo’s only real prize is the sense of accomplishment you get if you win and some banners that you can post on Facebook or your website. I have concerns that people might think otherwise, so I wanted to speak up on the subject.
Secondly, a “free publishing contract” isn’t on the list of prizes, for one, and for two all real publishing contracts are free. Discounting the world of self-publishing where you have to pay for service, if you are signing a contract with a publisher to publish your book it should not be costing you money; if it is you are likely falling prey to a vanity press. The only reason vanity publishers exist is because people don’t know how publishing actually works, and it is a constant heartache every time I hear about someone who has been picked up by a vanity press. What is even more tragic is that most of the people being published by a vanity press don’t succeed and either stop writing or never reach their potential.
Many people make the mistake of not knowing the difference between a vanity press or a self-publishing press. Self-publishing presses offer services to authors, things like editing, cover design, etc. for a price. Insomnia Publishing offers these services in addition to providing traditional publishing to authors who are looking to walk that path. Vanity presses, however, tend to be a little less honest about the subject. They offer to “publish your book” and will typically do little other than format and print the book and attempt to sell you copies. They will also want rights to the work, too, so you can’t get out of a contract to them. By contrast, self-publishing services don’t ask for rights to the book because they have already been paid for their services.
I do not take issue with those offering self-publishing support. If you are self-publishing you aren’t an island and should not be trying to do everything yourself. It isn’t a good idea, and you will produce an inferior product that way. Buying the services of an editor, artists, typesetters, etc. is a valuable thing for any writer, and I would never say otherwise!
Vanity presses, on the other hand, are never good for anyone; they provide nothing but heartache and misinformation.
The focus of this post? Make sure you research and read up on everything before you even consider signing a contract with anyone. Research the industry. Knowing how publishing works is as simple as doing some reading of blogs or purchasing a few books. It will also be immeasurably valuable and save you a great deal of pain and frustration.